Just a short post to keep up with the weekly updates… as classes are long and homework is hectic and everybody is just as held down as I am with adjusting to Waseda life, I wanted to take this opportunity to just gush a little about how things are here.
Path to the campus gardens at night…
Have I talked about my university yet? The university I’m currently studying abroad at, Waseda University, (早稲田大学）is located in Nishiwaseda, Shinjuku, and it’s one of Japan’s most famous private institutions. It might sound cheesy, but I’m actually really honoured to be able to study here and the amazing opportunities I’m having access to as a result. Of course, my first few posts made this seem like more of an extended holiday, but the truth is this is another year of study. I have to pass every class I take (achieve 60%+) and I’ll have to submit a few documents to UEA every so often including two essays, but the grade I receive from Waseda or from the documents I submit to UEA has no effect on my degree qualification – what I achieved in second year and what I’ll go on to achieve in my final year are the only things that matter.
Even so… I’m trying just as hard with my studies as I have been at home, even though the workload has tripled and I only have one day of rest a week (SATURDAY CLASSES.) I suppose I reached a point after my GCSEs where I gave up on studying all together, and to make up for it I’m giving it my all at university.
The Mr Donut Halloween doughnuts are adorable
At Waseda, I take 26 credits in a full year – however, every single class, minus 1, is only worth one credit. This term I decided to do 14 credits so I’d only have to take 12 next term, potentially giving me sliiiightly more free time to enjoy myself with when Spring and Summer hit… that means I am taking 10 classes, and I am at university every single day for a minimum of 1.5 hours. It’s doable, and it’s actually quite a nice change from how things are at UEA, and I know I’ll be able to cope just fine as long as I do the work as soon as I receive it.
I’m going to put all of my effort into keeping my blog updated at least once a week as well – basically, I’m keeping myself of my toes, so my one day off is all the more rewarding.
My Japanese level has gone from awkward-hand-gestures to somewhat-able-to-keep-a-fluent-conversation. It’s absolutely amazing how I’ve picked up so much without even realising – but then again, I’m in class every day, hearing nothing but Japanese from my teachers. It makes me excited to see what’s going to happen in the near future.
Moving on from university…
Feeling way more settled now that I’ve located most of the spices/oils I cooked with at home
Do you ever just feel totally happy with life? Like the world really is your oyster? Because I think I’ve really found myself again here. I haven’t felt this in control, surrounded by so many genuinely lovely people, since my first year of university. The work is tough; the working hours are long; you get treated like you’re back in school again, and, I was made to pee in a cup and have a chest x-ray as per Japanese health check regulations (don’t ask, I don’t really understand myself). The simple truth is: I absolutely love this city. Japan has shown me nothing but absolute care, and love, and kindness so far. I can’t wait to explore outside of Tokyo in Spring.
It’s actually pretty funny and I feel like this emotion will probably fade as I’m still settling in, (the 1 month anniversary of my arrival here just passed on the 7th October!!) but I can’t stop thinking about the quirky things that I’m going to miss when I go back to England.
- NOBODY crosses the road until the indicator turns green. Even if the road is empty. It’s just a no-go.
- When you pay for things, you put the money into a little plastic tray rather than into the hands of the cashier. Any change is returned straight into your hands most of the time, though…
- Face masks. Feel yourself getting ill? Is everybody around you ill? Just don’t feel like showing your face? Wear a face mask.
- The lack of massive supermarkets in a nearby vicinity of the kind that we have in England – I walk to four different shops just to get the ingredients that I need for my meals.
- Vending machines every 20 seconds, convenience stores every 30 seconds, CURRY ROUX!! (I love Japanese food so much and having all the ingredients I need be so cheap and accessible is just amazing… it’s going to be so sad going back and having to buy everything from oriental supermarkets with the price hiked up)
- The streets are RIDICULOUSLY clean. I saw a photo on Facebook last night of the shopping high street where I live in England, and I almost laughed at how filthy the ground was. I never even noticed before. Smoking on the street is illegal in Japan apart from in designated areas every 5-10 minutes, so that accounts for half of the cleanliness. What doesn’t make sense though is that bins are barely anywhere in the streets, and plastic bags and handed out like crazy – is it possible people here actually take their rubbish home with them and dispose of it appropriately rather than throwing everything into the streets like animals.
This mushroom hotdog had hummus in it and it made me realise how much I miss it
I’m not going to miss cyclists on the pavement though. And how you can smoke in pubs and restaurants.
Another emotion I’m feeling right now is just how much I’m going to miss everybody I’ve met here when it comes to next August. It’s been a month and I feel like I’m already making friends for life from all over the globe. I can’t even express just how amazing this whole opportunity is, how I never would’ve met any of these amazing people if I hadn’t made the choice 3 years ago to study Japanese at university and go to Tokyo for my study abroad.
Of course – and I feel like I’m going to write this every single week until I find it being sold within a walking distance of my flat – vegan cheese is still missing. The only dairy-free yoghurt here is soy yoghurt, which I’m sort of unwilling to try as the smell of liquid tofu makes me feel ill. But as I mentioned last post, I’ve located egg-dairy-free bread, soy mayonnaise, tempeh, seitan… tofu is (obviously) ridiculously cheap here. Mushrooms are pretty reasonably priced. Aubergines are also super cheap, and I’ve fallen more in love with them than I ever was before (how did I even live without cooking aubergines on a daily basis?? They’re so versatile and delicious). I’m discovering more and more ‘accidentally’ vegan things in the various shops I go to (nothing here is marked vegetarian or vegan unless it’s imported or specifically marketed for ‘health nuts’, so technically it’s all accidentally veggie). Nothing is as convenient as it was back in England in regards to allergen stuff, but I’m making major progress in knowing what is what here.
I’m back on track, basically. I remember clearly in the second week of being here, I bought soba noodles and struggled to read the instructions on the back of the packet, but now I can skim read everything and immediately know how to cook it, and whether it has fish/meat/egg/dairy in it. I know the average price of different products and where I’ll get the best bargain.
I’m hardly into my life here in Tokyo, but I’m 100% confident this is going to be one of the best, if not THE best, year of my life.
Please, just don’t let it get as ridiculously cold as everyone says it’s going to be.
P.S. There’s a chain of pubs here called British HUB. I went to one in Shibuya. They make it authentic by pricing half a pint of beer at £5, and you can order fish and chips.
P.P.S. Another exciting thing is that for one of my modules I write a blog in Japanese… I’ll link it in one of my posts at some point!